Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” was a slogan of genius. While his supporters (and most Americans) instantly knew what it meant, Democrats hated it. They didn’t know whether to respond, “America is still great,” or “America was never great,” which is what most of them believe. It was a painful dilemma.
But times have changed. Now Democrats embrace Trump’s slogan, or at least its acronym. They constantly refer derisively to “MAGA Republicans.” A Google search for “MAGA Republicans” returns over 58 million hits. One could cite countless examples, but let’s take Joe Biden talking earlier today:
“I think that this is the last gasp or maybe the first big gasp of the MAGA Republicans. And I think Trump has concluded that he has to win,” Biden told ProPublica in an interview released Sunday.
Biden alleged that “Trump and the MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy” and sharply rebuked “extremists in Congress” who want to “burn the place down.”
The octogenarian president was also uneasy about whether the conservative majority Supreme Court “is upholding and will uphold the rule of law.”
“I worry because I know that if the other team of MAGA Republicans win, they don’t want to pull the rule of law, they want to get rid of the FBI,” Biden said.
Why are Democrats so enamored of denouncing “MAGA Republicans”? In part, no doubt, because “MAGA” polls very poorly–worse than Republicans, conservatives, and so on. Democrats saw an opportunity and have done all they can to to smear MAGA and hang that term around the necks of their opponents. In the constantly-repeated view of Democrats, MAGA voters are ignorant, racist insurrectionists, dedicated to the overthrow of “our democracy.”
But what do Trump voters mean by MAGA? In 2018, two years into the Trump administration, the Reuters/Ipsos poll asked that question. This is how Trump voters responded:
Nothing sinister here. MAGA voters want a better economy, a strong border and lower taxes. Nothing unusual, although Democrats hate all of these things. Only 10% of Trump voters said that MAGA is anti-immigrant, no doubt a disappointment to the pollsters. And I suspect many of those meant they are opposed to illegal immigration.
So why the MAGA mania on the part of Democrats? Maybe they are just trying to tie Republicans in general–or conservative Republicans, since “MAGA” is pretty much always used to qualify “Republican”–to the unpopular Donald Trump. That may be a sufficient explanation, but I suspect there might be another factor at play.
I wonder whether the Democrats are using “MAGA” as a racist dog whistle. The Republican Party has become increasingly diverse, from both a racial and a class perspective. I wonder whether Democrats, in speaking to their constituencies, intend “MAGA” to be interpreted as white. Or, more specifically, white working class. Democrats advocate vicious discrimination against whites (as well as Asians, of course). I wonder whether demonization of “MAGA” is really a dog whistle, standing in for demonization of working class whites. That might help to account for the contemptuous attitude that Democrats express toward “MAGA Republicans.”
Does that theory make sense? Feel free to weigh in in the comments.